It’s Not About Me, Overcoming Our Incessant Need for the World to Be Perfect (video and sermon manuscript)

Have you ever been scrolling Netflix and come across something that looks so dumb ———————– that you had to watch it! I wasted 20 minutes of my life on the documentary, Behind the Curve. Behind the Curve is about people who believe that the earth is flat. Despite all of the data we have from satellites in orbit, the eyewitness accounts of astronauts in orbit, the evidence of physics, or our mapping of the globe, there are some who insist that it is all nothing more than a conspiracy to convince us that our planet is round rather than flat.

The film begins with a guy walking on a beach somewhere near Seattle explaining that you and I live in something like a giant sound stage, something more akin to the Truman Show, rather than on a round rock in a solar system. It is 95 minutes of total ridiculous! My advice is to watch the first 20 minutes for the comedy of it. When your head feels like it is about to explode from the insanity, move on to something more productive like clipping your nails, grating cheese, or learning how toast is made.

As ridiculous as it is to believe that the Earth is flat, so it is to believe that your life should be perfect. As ridiculous as it is to believe that you and I are living in a Truman-esque sound stage, so it is to believe that you can do it all, fix it all, know it all, and control it all.

Many are living beneath the crushing weight of unrealistic expectations and missing the beauty of an eternal God working in our everyday.

Our unrealistic expectations come from the overreach of an otherwise healthy desire. In Ecclesiastes 3:11 Solomon says about God, “He put eternity into man’s heart.” That’s an amazing statement. What does it mean?

“He put eternity into man’s heart” is an important statement about our nature. God has created us as eternal creatures. You and I know we are going to die, but isn’t there also a sense in you that life is never going to end? Weird isn’t it!

“He put eternity in man’s heart” also explains our desire for that “paradise lost” where everything is complete, where things are fixed, where we do understand, and where everything is under control. The eternity he put into our hearts is like a fading memory of a place we have never been, but of a place we desperately want to go.

Our return to paradise lost is a healthy desire, but it is an unrealistic expectation if we do not accept the statement that follows in Ecclesiastes 3:11,“He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

A perfect world may be our desire, but it cannot be our expectation – at least not now. The fall of man into sin has ruined our world and clouded our judgment (Gen. 3). We may be eternal, but because we are sinful we need to know our limitations. Some things we can’t “find out” or figure out. Unfortunately, it means that some questions God doesn’t answer. Some mysteries will remain hidden. “Yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” also means that God is perfectly fine with you – like this – for now.

The earth is not flat. Your life is not perfect. It is what it is. And that’s good theology!

Take a deep breath, there is hope! The liberating piece of the passage comes in the statement that precedes our frustration with unrealistic expectation. “He has made everything beautiful in its time (Ecc. 3:11a).” We are not left alone. The eternal God is working in our everyday.

“HE” makes everything beautiful in its time brings us to the most freeing, stress relieving, joyous of conclusions – IT’S NOT ABOUT ME! In its time means that if I can learn to deal with life as it is, as it comes – if I could learn the value of dealing the immediate and not trying to be or do or determine the ultimate – it’s a beautiful thing!

How did Solomon arrive at this most liberating conclusion? He explains in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

I Can’t Do It All – Know My Season

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 articulates an inescapable truth of life; nothing remains the same. “For EVERYTHING there is a season and a time for EVERY matter under heaven.”

This is most unfortunate for the mother of a 15 year old who still parents like the child is 5. This is a difficult truth for those who can’t move on after something or someone is gone.

It also explains why it is frustrating for the guy who is conflicted between being the perfect dad while also attempting to be a highly profitable entrepreneur. This is why Instagram comparisons are so debilitating and horribly misleading. It is not that you are failing, it may simply be that you are out of season. Knowing WHEN you are is as important as knowing WHO you are.

Observing the principle of seasons will help you enjoy what is truly beautiful in its time.

  • Seasons come naturally, not selectively. You don’t choose seasons, they just happen. We all have our favorite seasons, but we can’t extend them or choose them to the exclusion of others. You can’t deny winter simply because it is cold. You may love summer, but you look strange in the dead of winter wearing shorts. Wearing shorts in the winter is not only bad fashion, but it is a bad strategy. But think of how many decisions we make, in our feeble attempt to do it all, that are like wearing a winter coat in the middle of July. So many things that fill us with frustration are simply the right thing at the wrong time.
  • Certain things only happen in certain seasons. I talked about this in my book The Walk (now only $14.99 on Amazon! Shameless plug!). The grocery store is deceptive. Those strawberries you bought for your cake at Christmas, those weren’t picked in Georgia. Those berries are from Argentina, not Ellijay! For those of us trying to rush it along, grow them up way too fast, get more out of it – long before it’s in season – all you are going to do is crush it. As a matter of creation, God put in us a desire to be fruitful. If you follow Christ, the desire to be fruitful is also a matter of mission. But realize that fruitfulness is not a matter of constancy (as in it can happen all of the time). Fruitfulness is a matter of consistency. Fruitfulness comes after ripening. Before ripening there was trimming. Before trimming there was fertilizing – and planting, and working and so on and so forth. And oh yes, let’s not forget that in bearing fruit there is also a season of dormancy. It is very difficult for a perfectionist to simply leave soemthing alone. But we all know that sometimes the most important part of maturing is not what is happening to you as much as it is what is happening in you. How many matters of life would be so much less frustrating if we were not out there holding bushel baskets ready to pick off of leafless trees during the dormant season? There is an important season in which you may just need to leave it alone!
  • All God expects is for you to steward the season. If you observe the season you will know best how to work it and what to expect from it. In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 there are times to plant but also times to pluck. There are times to save and times to spend. That’s incredibly frustrating if you’re trying to save money but can’t understand you’re always having to pay for repairs. Saving money is essential, but you can’t neglect what you have along the way. Maybe that business was booming, but now, not so much. Maybe instead of getting depressed its time to dig down deep, restructure, re-strategize, reorganize. Work this season and enjoy it! Perhaps the next one will be even more fruitful than before.

“It’s not about me” is the realization that life changes. It is understanding that sometimes it is less about talent and more about timing. It is about realizing that in the current season I need to do THIS and not all of THAT. If “it’s not about me” I can do THIS for NOW and I can do it with JOY. The rest of it will have to wait for a season of its own. Everything is beautiful in its time.

I Can’t Fix It All – Know My Situation

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 reveals another important principle of seasons. In every season there is good and bad. Every season has its problems.

On March 13, 2019, Facebook went down for about 4 hours. So for about 4 hours on a Wednesday afternoon, most of the world did not know what to do.

At the time of the outage, I was trying to post some information about our upcoming Bible study at Liberty. Like a billion other people, I got frustrated by the outage. Trying to figure out what was going on I began to scan media outlets to see if they were reporting on any FB outages. The headlines were telling. Major news sources were using the word “panic” in the leads to the story. Some sources were even reporting on the possibility of terrorists hacking into servers in Europe. My favorite headline read, “Facebook Outage: Tell Your Grandma Not to Panic.”

I wonder how many people sat in front of a computer or made a million pointless attempts on their phone to refresh Facebook and solve the problem? There is no doubt that there was a lot of wasted time and mounting frustration. But the real problem was not that Facebook was down. The real problem was in the countless millions of us who could not understand the situation – you don’t solve a global social media outage with your refresh button :). There is no magic “refresh” button that can fix people or fix all of your problems. Know the situation – it’s not about you – move on to something else.

In every season there will be situations – both good and bad. Knowing the situation can bring sweet release to those who feel the incessant need for perfection. Here are three critical principles of situations:

  1. Not every situation is your fault. When things go wrong we often wonder what we did wrong. We wonder “why?” Why does God hate me? Why is God out to get me? What did I do to deserve this? The answer may very well be – nothing! Life is unfair. There are victims. People make choices that may cause you problems. Some of these choices will be made today. Some of them may have been made long before you were even born. Where there are people, there will be problems. What “they” do may negatively affect you, but remember, it’s not about you!
  2. Some situations are your fault. And then there are times when we need to admit, “I am the problem.” When we are willing to admit that we are the problem, we want the problem solved quickly. That may or may not happen. Look at Ecc. 3:1-8. There is a time to build up, but it may be time to tear down. Just because you are still suffering the consequences doesn’t mean you are doing the wrong thing, it just means you did a dumb thing. Deal with it. This situation may very well be your season. But remember; seasons pass.
  3. Some people are not yours to fix. It is one thing to deal with your own incessant need for perfection, it is quite another to impose that need on others. Unrealistic expectations will crush you. Why invite someone else into the press? The perfectionist mentality is hard on a marriage. It is not healthy for parenting. Perfectionists are difficult to work with or work for. Remember the verse “HE has made everything beautiful in IT’S time.” God did not put you on the planet to fix it for Him.

The amazing thing about knowing Christ is the realization that problems become purposeful. Romans 8:28 turns a world filled with problems into something with incredible purpose.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

“It’s not about me” is the realization that there will be problems and that I may not be the solution – or at least my incessant need of perfection is not the solution. Release and relief comes in realizing that there is good and bad in every season. Problems are natural, not vindictive. This is not God out to get me – it’s just me and a world full of people. “It’s not about me” is the acceptance that God’s grace is much better for the world than my incessant need of perfection.

I Can’t Understand/Control It All – Know The Sovereign

In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 there are listed a lot of things we would not choose, a lot of things we do not enjoy, and a lot of things we do not understand. We would not choose to die, to pluck, to kill, to break down, to weep, or to mourn. We had rather have life full of planting, healing, building up, laughing, and dancing. Unfortunately, we don’t always have a choice.

And when we don’t seem to have a choice – well – that is what we don’t understand.

As ugly as those “would not choose” items seem, even they are included in “He makes everything beautiful in its time.” That is beyond my ability to explain, but it has not been beyond my experience.

My father died the day before my 44th birthday. He was an active, athletic man. He was a great dad. The final five years of his life we spent watching his vigor and strength drain away. For five years we watched him die with the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease.

The week we realized he would not last much longer, it was like God hit the pause button. I am a pastor. There is no pause button. But for that week it was like God gave me a supernatural release. I went home to be with my parents. And as odd as this may sound, it was one of the most horrible and wonderful weeks of my life.

There was so much ugliness in watching my dad struggle to breathe. There was so much beauty in watching my mother fulfill the vows she had made to him 47 years ago. It was awful to watch him suffer. It was amazing to listen to my oldest daughter sit on the end of his bed and share with him all of her hopes, plans, and dreams. For thirty minutes she talked and for the only thirty minutes that week he opened his eyes, smiled, and stared at her. I am fully convinced he took in every word she said. Physically he was a horrible mess. That conversation was a beautiful thing.

Our eternal God was working in our everyday. We were nearing the hardest moment of a long difficult season, but it was a beautiful thing.

I’ll never forget. It was in the early morning hours. We were so tired and my mother and I had just tried to go to bed. It was not long before she opened my bedroom door and said softly, “He’s gone.”

Every day I replay the scene of my dad’s body being rolled away on a gurney out of his bedroom door. It was horrible. Ugly. Deflating.

But I serve a sovereign God who is good, and able, and in control. And because He is who He is, my dad’s death was not the end. It was just the end of a season.

Knowing Christ as Lord and Savior is the essence of seeing the beauty in every season. So many times you hear a person say in the loss of people and things – my life just ended. For those who follow Christ they realize it is not the end of life, it is just the end of a season. Knowing Jesus means there is always more ahead for me. It may not all be good, but it will not all be bad. He has a plan and a purpose in every season.

To know my dad now has life after life. To know my dad can walk. To know my dad is healed. To know my sovereign God is a savior and a giver of life – He makes everything beautiful in its time. It was my dad’s time. That’s beautiful. Amazing. Encouraging.

“It’s not about me” means that I don’t have to like everything. It means that I may not even agree with the choices or experiences. It’s not about me means that I probably won’t understand most of it, but I can release it because I know that a good God who is able is in control. That much, we understand and that is enough.

So the earth isn’t flat and your life is not perfect, but if you follow Christ, it will be – in time! Everything is beautiful in its time – your salvation – His return – our sanctification – and your sweet release of your incessant need to be perfect. It’s not about me is the simple realization that it is ALL about Him. It is realizing things are so much more beautiful in His time.

So how can you tell if it’s time?

  • The question of seasons – Ask yourself if what you are about to do will flourish or cause more frustration in this season. Will it be great for business but bad for family? Will it be great fun, but bring debt? Maybe it’s not the wrong thing. Maybe it’s just not the right time.
  • The question of situation – What’s the good and the bad? Weigh it out. If this comes, what goes? Sometimes the question is not what you ARE going to do as much as it is what you are NOT going to do.
  • Questions for the Sovereign – You and I may not understand it all, but we are allowed to ask questions. What is God doing that I can join in with Him? What does the Bible say? Can God bless this decision? How is the Holy Spirit leading?

Overbooking Heaven

If you do not believe in purgatory you have obviously never flown out of Atlanta! The airport code ATL should be changed to HEL as a means to better describe the experience. I digress. One of my many blessed experiences in the ATL/HEL is well documented in the post, Delta Abandoned Me.

But if you have ever flown out of HEL you understand the devilish trials of delays, gate changes, and the ole sit on the runway trick. All of these blessings occur only after you have just stood nearly pantsless in the security line behind the guy who suddenly forgot the meaning of the word “liquid.” Search him – that Dasani could explode!

One of the airline industry’s favorite stupid human tricks is overbooking. Overbooking is when some brilliant higher up mathematician at X airline decides that he will book 15 more butts than there are seats – and you’re going to love it! Overbooking means someone either gets to hang on to a wing at 537 MPH. If wing surfing is not allowed he or she will then receive the rich blessing of being left behind to stand there on standby (which should more appropriately be named standBYE as the plane pulls away from the gate).

I believe there is a sense in which we are overbooking Heaven. Much like the airline industry promises people seats that do not actually exist, many false prophets of cultural Christianity have promised people a place in Heaven that isn’t actually theirs. This “overbooking” of Heaven comes from our twisting of Scripture both in it being misunderstood by readers and misrepresented by preachers. A simple survey of key Biblical texts should clarify confusion and bring us to true repentance and faith in Jesus. So who is it that is overbooked for Heaven?

Passengers Shallow and Worldly (Matthew 13:1-23)

Ironically one of Jesus’ most misrepresented parables is one of the few that He actually took time to explain. In this parable a sower sows seed that falls on various types of soil. The seed represents the Word of God and the soil represents the heart with which a person receives the Word of God.

Those who would overbook Heaven believe that the central soils of the parable; the shallow, rocky soil and the unkept soil of thorns and weeds, represent those unfortunate cases of cultural Christians who at first favorably received the gospel, but for one reason or another they no longer serious about their faith. Those who overbook would call these Christians shallow or worldly. The problem is Jesus would not consider them Christians at all. When the “roll is called up yonder” they will not be there.

If you rightly read the parable you will see that the master is pleased only with one soil. It is the soil that receives the seed and the seed bears fruit (Matthew 13:23). No farmer in his right mind would make an investment of time and seed into a field that results in scorched rock or thorny weeds and claim that it is a success! Shallow and worldly may have had a great youth camp back in ’93 or may have really been moved at a Christian concert in 2012, but if they are not living for Jesus current day – they need to check the soil – Heaven is overbooked.

Passenger Struggle (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19-21, Revelation 21:8)

Jesus clearly calls those who would enter the Kingdom of Heaven to repent (Matthew 3:2). And while ceasing from sin is not easy and sanctification is an ongoing struggle, there is a sense within those indwelt by the Holy Spirit that sin is not right and staying in it is not satisfying.

What baffles me are those who dwell in an ongoing activity that the Bible clearly calls sin, but they excuse it as a “struggle.” But be sure, it is no struggle – IF THERE IS NO STRUGGLE AGAINST IT. Because you do it, and do it, and do it – constantly giving in to it – that is not a struggle. That is what we call lifestyle.

Swimming upstream is a struggle. Running UP a hill is a struggle. Struggle means that you are going against something, not that you are doing something! But yet there are many that foolishly convince themselves that what is off the sin list of the culture has somehow also been erased from the Bible. Read these texts – if you mindlessly repeat but do not repent – Heaven is overbooked! You are not on the list.

Passengers No Follow and No Suffer (Luke 14:25-35)

Jesus uses the word “believe” to quantify faith (John 3:16). But what does it mean to “believe?” Another word Jesus used to quantify faith was the word “follow.” As Jesus called his first disciples he did not invite them to believe in him. Instead, He invited them to “follow” Him. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men (Mark 1:6).”

Both “follow” and “believe” are necessary words for a proper definition of saving faith. To believe in the sense of to know, or to agree, or even to approve without following is NOT saving faith. James 2:19 tells us that if we merely believe in Jesus that we have do little more than agree with demons.

In Luke 14 Jesus makes it very clear, without follow there is nothing but failure. No Follow and No Suffer are not even on standby when it comes to saving faith.

Passenger Any Way (John 14:6)

Perhaps the most offensive facet of Biblical Christianity is its exclusivity. Exclusivity does not bode well with a pluralistic culture. From college tuition, to wealth, to tolerance , to religion – postmodernism believes everyone deserves a seat on any and every flight on which they want to sit.

The problem is that the King of Heaven Himself has said He is the way, the truth, and the life. Just in case you missed the implications of this, he also adds, “No man comes to the Father, but by me.” There is no standby list for Heaven. It is NOT overbooked!

Salvation is not sincerity. It is not being nice. It is not even being loved. Salvation is surrender in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. If you are under any delusion that the gates of Heaven stand wide open for everyone and anyone who wishes to enter by any other way – do not listen to yourself. Don’t even listen to a preacher. Read the Biblical text for yourself. Jesus offers great salvation for all, but it is only effective for those who come to Him in repentance and faith.

Heaven is not overbooked.

(Photo by Anugrah Lohiya from Pexels)

Total Dad Brag

I’m really proud of my daughter, Morgan. She is a Freshman at West Georgia and as her mom commented about her, she has blossomed wherever she has been planted. The University took an essay she wrote for a scholarship and turned it into a commercial script. Thank you UWG for doing an amazing job of filming a beautiful soul. Way to go Mo!

Ask These Questions to Find Out When Enough is Enough

How much stuff do you have with you right now? Count every article of clothing; maybe 8, 10, 12 items – don’t forget your glasses – 13. What’s in your pockets? Keys? How many? If you are like me there are 10 – 12 keys and maybe two key fobs. It doesn’t count for this survey, but don’t forget that each one of those keys connects to something. If you carry a bag or a purse for work, school or both – what all is in there? I carry a computer bag around with me most days that is filled with cords, books, papers, a laptop, an iPad, a few pens, and a lot of lost change. 

I surveyed my stuff last week and on the day I counted, I stopped at 47 things either on me or with me. That’s a lot to lug around. Perhaps it is time to lighten my load.

Truth is, Americans love stuff. We are a “gotta have it” gadget laden, fashion forward, constantly on the go culture. And even though we feel we have made great strides in efficiency, truth is, we are collecting more and more as we go.

Did you know that in 2017 the average person bought 66 articles of clothing – or 20% more than we did in 2012?

Did you know that there are twice as more storage unit facilities in American than there were just 10 years ago.

Did you know that in 2017 we spent $240 billion on material goods which is double the amount we spent in 2002.

We can’t get enough of stuff! This is not surprising given that American culture is bent on convincing us as consumers that happiness has a price tag. We measure success by wealth. The health of our economy is tied to an algorithm called the Gross Domestic Product which measures how much goods we produce as a nation. The Consumer Index measures our economic confidence and the DOW is a constant projection of what we “think” the value of a company will be in the not too distant future. 

But are we being consumed as consumers? We are wealthy, but are we happy? We have stuff, but have we found stability? Our society is highly commercialized but is it ever contented? 

When is enough, enough?

The Bible offers numerous warnings about the false hope of happiness tied to consumerism.

6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Tim. 6:6-10 ESV)

In 1 Tim. 6:6-10 we see true gains and losses. Godliness with contentment is a great gain. Consumerism in its pursuit of more only brings ruin, destruction, and piercing pain. The problem is, we never see it coming – which is the essence of the word “snare.” 

So how do we safeguard ourselves from being consumed as consumers? In Haggai 1 God sent the prophet to confront the people about their misplaced materialism. He counsels them to “consider your ways.” Consider your ways doesn’t mean to merit your ideas. It doesn’t even mean explain what you believe. It means, look at how you live. Say nothing with your mouth – just read through your accounts. Look at the numbers! 

From this passage I find three questions we can ask ourselves to keep us from being consumed as consumers.

1) What contents?

In verse 6 He says, “You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill.” I think we can all identify with the insatiable desire for what’s new and what’s next. If we are never satisfied, the lack of contentment begins to consume our peace

Did you know that numerous studies show that when a person has sufficient food, shelter, and clothing that material gains do little to improve a person’s sense of well-being (The High Price of Materialism, Tim Kasser). In fact, accumulation only adds to anxiety.

We know we have a problem; but the problem is that we never change.

I’ll sound 45 when I say this, but a lot of things about millennials confuse me. For the most part I don’t get them politically or socially. But I’m 45. I probably confuse you.

But there are some things about millennials that I find extremely interesting. They are not afraid to find another way. They think about things from odd angels and find ways to do things differently. 

One thing mills have realized about us 40+ is that we have too much and so they are finding ways to live on a lot less. One example is a website called is a furniture subscription service. Now, I know that we 40’s call that rent – but the words “subscription service” sound better with lattes.  

At yo do a 5 minute survey. You agree to your subscription price and the people at LiveFeather send someone to deliver and setup your room. It’s a minimalist approach.

While I admire detachment, I realize that detachment merely for the sake of detachment is as pointless as materialism – both are a total waste of a life if they are not at some point attached to meaning. 

Paul explained contentment with attachment to Christ beautifully in Philippians 4:11-13.

11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

What if we could have less for the sake of trusting Christ more?

What if we could have less for the sake of knowing Christ more?

What if we could have less for the sake of being satisfied in Christ even more?

What if we could have less so we could live for more!

If we don’t find what contents it will consume our peace.

2) What costs?

In Haggai 1:6 the prophet once again describes a situation with which we are well acquainted. He says, “You sow much, but harvest little.” He goes on to say, “And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”

In Haggai 1:6 the prophet once again describes a situation with which we are well acquainted. He says, “You sow much, but harvest little.” He goes on to say, “And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”

We all own at least one bag with holes – that thing that seems to erode your time, energy, and money. You thought you would enjoy it, but it has become a burden to you and it has become a drain on your resources. If we don’t figure out what things REALLY cost the will consume our resources

To have more, it costs more. We don’t need stats to bear this out – we know it. We live it. To have more it takes more money, more work, more upkeep, more insurance, more time . . . more takes . . . more.

The side effect of more is not just in the consuming of our own resources but in the neglect of leveraging those resources toward people and places where they are truly needed. 

The side effect of more is not just in the consuming of our own resources but in the neglect of leveraging those resources toward people and places where they are truly needed. 

Did you know that there are enough resources on the planet right now to adequately feed, clothe, and shelter every human being? So why are there such vast pockets of poverty? It is because 12% of the world’s population consumes 60% of the world’s resources. And you guessed it. American’s are the world’s worst. When it comes to food the average American consumes 3,700 calories a day. We are eating ourselves to death while others are starving to death.

There is a scathing indictment of consuming more to the neglect of others in James 5:1-6. It says:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

This passage is painful. It calls for us to be made uncomfortable. It should bother us, but the self-self-indulgence is not only fattening, it is also blinding. Our homes and storage sheds are filled with rotting goods that could be put to better use if our resources were not so concentrated on our consumer driven culture.

What if we could consume less for the sake of helping others more? Generosity if far more satisfying than simply having stuff.

So what brought the Haggai’s audience to such wasteful ends? The indictment comes in 1:2-4.

2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.” 3 Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 

In God’s mind time for rebuilding the Temple was long overdue. In the people’s mind it was not a priority. And the problem was not simply that they were rebuilding their homes – they had to have a place to live, but notice the passage. He doesn’t just call them houses, but paneled houses. They were past rebuilding and now into remodeling. 

We are not dismissive of the things of God. We know we need the Lord. We know our families need the Lord. We would all say that it is good to go to church – but the problem is that in practice we have developed a THIS NOW – THAT NEXT approach when it comes to the things of God.

And this mentality will cost us because in the end we are missing what REALLY counts! 

Our mistaken priorities consuming our souls? You and your family may be having a great time – but do they know Christ? “But we are spending time as a family?” Great – but where are you headed eternally?

Jesus tells the story of a man who made a major miscalculation of what really counts.

15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

The man was successful, resourceful, and his life was enjoyable. No one would fault him for that. He did well. He planned ahead. He was living the dream. According to Jesus, HE WASTED HIS LIFE.

Notice two ideas from the story.

  1. The man was successful, resourceful, and his life was enjoyable. No one would fault him for that. He did well. He planned ahead. He was living the dream. According to Jesus, HE WASTED HIS LIFE.
  2. Notice how Jesus prefaces the story. “Be on guard against all covetousness.” The words “be on guard” suggest vulnerability and intentionality. Vulnerability – because we are all prone to covet. Intentionality with being on guard, because saying “no” to self does not come naturally.

What Miracles Mean

There is a Bible oozing oil in Dalton, GA. Is it a miracle or something else? What is the meaning of miracles?

In this message from, The Gospels series, being shared on Sunday nights at Liberty, we look at the seven “sign” miracles recorded in John’s Gospel. In his book John records not only the miracles, but also explains their meaning.

Our apologies for the reverb in the video. It clears at about the 4:30 mark so hang with it!

Overcoming Temptation, Just Like Joseph

In my Wednesday night Bible Study Cafe´class (Wednesdays 6:30pm at Liberty Hwy 76) I shared 7 observations about overcoming temptation gleaned from Genesis 39 as Joseph is propositioned by Potiphar’s wife.

1 Your mindset going in often determines how you come out (Gen. 39:1-6). If any man had a reason to be bitter about life, it was Joseph. He was hated by his brothers; betrayed by them and sold into slavery. Yet even in a difficult place Joseph was a man of integrity and found ways to advance. Had Joseph chosen bitterness and thought of himself only as a rejected brother and purchased slave – when a beautiful woman propositioned him he would have thought, “why not?” But because Joseph was man, his location may have changed but his mindset never did and he knew WHY NOT! How you think of yourself going in usually determines how things will come out.

2 Don’t just FANTASIZE about what you stand to gain. THINK about what you stand to lose (Genesis 39:6-10). Fantasy is a story without consequence. THINK is rooted in reality. Fantasy is in your own mind. THINK seeks out wise counsel. Fantasy “glorifies what is wrongfully gained (thank you Rob Hoffbauer – great word).” THINK understands the value of what is lost. As Potiphar’s wife propositioned Joseph with an attractive offer, Joseph cited truth – Potiphar has withheld nothing from me – he has given me responsibility – YOU ARE HIS WIFE – how can I do this great wickedness and sin against God. Don’t let the situation play out in your fantasies, THINK through it with a lens of truth.

3 Temptation is not a single encounter. It is a persistent offer (Genesis 39:10). For Potiphar’s wife, “no” meant “ask again the next day.” The Bible says she propositioned him “day after day.” I wish our temptations would go away, but even when you tell them “no” they may keep talking. You are the one who has to determine “NO” means “NO” and will continue to mean “NO.”

4 Temptation is not sin. Sin is temptation after incubation (James 1:12-15, Genesis 39:11-12). I think it is important here to insert what I believe to be the Bible’s most clear, concise teaching on temptation. It is not wrong to be tempted. We are all tempted. But James describes temptation with the same language we would describe the beginnings of human life – conception, incubation, birth, and maturity. The Bible says that Joseph did not toy around with it, he fled from it. 2 Tim. 2:22 gives us a great strategy for overcoming temptation – RUN!

5 Refusing evil does not stop evil (Genesis 39:13-18). Joseph did the right thing, but it put him in a bad situation. Joseph did not make the decision based on who she was, but on who he was. It was not about what she was willing to give, but about what he wasn’t willing to take. As right as Joseph’s decision was, it is amazing how quickly she came up with a story that was all wrong. You can’t change people – but you must be careful to not allow bad people to entice you into bad behavior. You can’t change who THEY are. Never forget who YOU are in the Lord.

6 No matter what happens, trusting God is always better than giving in to temptation (Genesis 39:19-23). A lot of us may read Genesis 39:19 as defeat – Joseph gets thrown into prison. The problem in reading that verse through modern Western eyes is that it fails to realize what COULD have happened to Joseph. He was a Hebrew slave. He could have been castrated, killed – executed – and even by some ancient Egyptian laws, fed to gators. But he was thrown into prison. Even then notice, this was not Cairo County jail. It was the King’s prison. Also notice, the Lord never left him. The language in the beginning of the passage – Joseph was favored, trusted, prospered – is the same language that is used in the end of the passage. What God did for Joseph in Potiphar’s house he will now do for him in prison. The location may change. God never does.

7 Some things feel detrimental but may prove to be beneficial (Genesis 39:19-23). Joseph wound up in prison, but if you continue to read the story he is one step closer to the throne! The stories of God’s people are filled with detrimental episodes that proved to be beneficial turns in life. There are no shortcuts to blessing. Sometimes the right way is the hard way.

Repentance Unto Revival

There have been moments in history in which there have been unusual movements of God upon His people. We call these moments revival.

What will it take for the church to turn from a “formal, cold, callous profession of Christianity” to a white-hot version of faith? In studying revival, without doubt, both prayer and repentance precede revival.

The beginning of Jesus’ ministry, with His baptism and temptation, is an unmistakable moment of history in which God begins to move. By watching this moment in Jesus’ life, perhaps we can usher in another incredible move of God in this moment of our own.